Americans really enjoy nicknames, and we pass them out liberally. Basketball star Shaquille O'Neal is Shaq. New Hampshire is the Granite State. President George W. Bush is W.
We like to give our cities nicknames, too. This is not a uniquely American idea. Just ask Parisians in the City of Light or people in the Pearl of the Mediterranean: Alexandria, Egypt.
But we get pretty clever with our nicknames. Annapolis, Maryland, for instance, is Crabtown, thanks to the tasty blue crabs that scurry in the nearby waters of the Chesapeake Bay.
Various cities in California are the Artichoke, Broccoli, Apricot, Raisin, Garlic and Avocado capitals of the world. But it's a city in Michigan -- Kalamazoo -- that's Celery City. Theking of organic cities, of course, is New York -- the Big Apple.
The gambling resort of Las Vegas, Nevada, doesn't mind at all if you call it Sin City. To the west, though, Los Angeles, or L.A., California, is not thrilled to be known as La La Land. And another nickname that you won't find on chamber of commerce stationery belongs to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Because of the sandbars that have wrecked many a ship offshore, it's known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic.
Cleveland, Ohio, far prefers to call itself the Greatest Location in the Nation than its old nickname from the times when steel and chemical plants polluted its air and water. That's when folks began to call that Lake Erie city the Mistake by the Lake.
And given world events of the past few years, San Francisco, California, doesn't seem to be using one of its old nicknames much, either. No, there's nary a billboard touting San Francisco as Baghdad by the Bay anymore.
Read more of Ted's personal reflections and stories from the road on his blog, Ted Landphair's America.